Sunday, September 2, 2012

Al kissing Tipper? Are you kidding me?

There's no question now that Clint Eastwood made an impact with his little performance at the GOP Convention. People are still talking about it, still arguing about, still laughing about, and still making silly posters about it on their computers. Hell, I made one of those posters on my computer (not a very good one) and this is my third blog post involving the incident.

But only in a roundabout way. One of the writers at the MaddowBlog (seriously, if you're not gonna write your own stuff, why do you use your name on the blog, Rachel?) offered his take on the Eastwood incident and it's memorability factor:
Political conventions occasionally produce memorable moments that endure. The Chicago riots in 1968, Cuomo's "Tale of Two Cities" speech in 1984, Al kissing Tipper in 2000, Obama's "audacity of hope" in 2004 -- these are memories that quickly entered the political history books, reminding us why conventions still matter.

Last night, we saw another such moment, when Clint Eastwood decided to argue with an empty chair.
The writer in question here is one Steve Benen who has been an active political commentator for some time now, having even been named in The Atlantic 50, a list of "the most influential commentators in the nation, the columnists and bloggers and broadcast pundits who shape the national debates." Benen came in at number forty-four.

That's high praise from a serious publication (I'm a big fan of The Atlantic) and I'd expect a correspondingly impressive grasp of politics and political history from someone on the list. Alas, I am deeply disappointed. Benen is right that Eastwood's performance will be remembered, but the short list he offers of other such memorable moments is, well, stupid.

Let's get real: the Chicago riots represent a major political event, they're far more than just a "memorable moment." Entire books have been written on the subject; the background leading up to the riots involves major historical figures and major social and political movements in the nation. To this, Benen compares a couple of speeches and a kiss?

I get that Benen is a total partisan, so I can understand his drooling over Obama's speech and to a lesser extent Cuomo's, but Al Gore and Tipper kissing? It's something that "entered the political history books" and is why "conventions still matter"? Really? There are so many other options he could have used to flesh out the list, from Goldwater's speech in 1964 (where he reminded us that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice") to, yes, Sarah Palin's speech in 2008 (and Lieberman's cross-over speech at the same convention). Deeply memorable too was the closing of the Democratic Convention in 1992, with Fleetwood Mac filling the air, as Bill Clinton glad-handed supporters with his wife and daughter. Then there was the Democratic Convention of 1980 and Teddy Kennedy's attempt at a coup, which ultimately failed but made Carter look weak, if not ridiculous.

Al and Tipper kissing? All of the above signified something and--in hindsight--did represent watershed moments, even if those moments were not immediately realized. Al Gore kissing his wife was, indeed, a nice moment, a great photo-op, but it was nothing more than that. There's no historical significance attached to it and there never will be. Nothing about it is evidence of "why conventions still matter."

So why is it there? Perhaps because Benen doesn't have much of a grasp on history, at all. So, when he tells us that:
A month from now, no one will remember a word from Romney's speech, but a decade from now, we'll still be talking about the time a confused Clint Eastwood had a debate with an empty chair, and lost.
We should take it with a grain of salt, because he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Cheers, all.

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